India's Modi Goes to Jerusalem: A Rundown of India's Hefty Arms Deals With Israel

One of the deals includes a missiles sale worth $500 million, which, if signed, would make 2017 a record year in terms of Israeli weapons sales to India

India's hefty arms deals with Israel. President Reuven Rivlin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi hug each other at Hyderabad House in New Delhi, India, November 15, 2016.
India's hefty arms deals with Israel. President Reuven Rivlin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi hug each other at Hyderabad House in New Delhi, India, November 15, 2016. ADNAN ABIDI/REUTERS

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to sign an agreement to purchase more weapons systems during his visit to Israel on Tuesday, Indian media outlets have reported. 

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One of the likely deals includes the purchase of 8,000 Spike anti-tank missiles, worth about $500 million, from Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems. The sale has been delayed for about two years, but in the past few weeks it was brought to the Indian cabinet for approval. If the deal is finalized, 2017 will be a record year in terms of Israeli weapons sales to India, a major client of Israeli defense industries.  

Last year, the Indian government signed two large deals with the Israel Aerospace Industries, a government-owned company that develops and sells defense and weapons systems. IAI reported the signing of the deals in the past few months: One worth almost $2 billion includes the land-based version of the Barak 8 air defense system, as well as the naval version to be installed on the Indian navy’s aircraft carrier. 

The second deal, worth $630 million, was signed with the Indian state-owned company Bharat Electronic Limited for the installation of the Barak 8 systems on four navy ships. This aerial defense system was developed as a joint project between India and Israel, and the sales are a continuation of the policy of cooperation between the countries.

Rafael's Spike missiles
Rafael Advanced Defense Systems
The 'Barak 8' missile defense system undergoes testing in 2015.
IDF Spokespersons Unit
The Heron drone on a runway.
IDF Spokesperson

India and Israel also cooperate to a great extent on defense matters, in particular the air forces and navies. Last month, the commander of the Indian navy visited Israel. In another three months, Indian pilots will participate in the Blue Flag air force training exercise held in Israel, along with representatives of a number of other countries.

India has also expressed great interest in Israeli methods to protect offshore gas drilling platforms in its economic waters in the Mediterranean Sea. A working group was established between the navies of the two countries as part of India’s interest in the matter. The work is focusing on the ability to monitor and protect the large maritime region. “They have a threat from Pakistan, so India is trying to learn from things that are similar here,” a senior officer in the Israeli navy told Haaretz.  “We intend on continuing to cooperate and see where the challenges overlap. It is a joint need, both for them and for us,” said the officer.

Over the past few years, India has shown interest in buying additional weapon systems from Israel, including the Phalcon early warning, command and control and intelligence planes or drones. The $1 billion-Phalcon deal, also considered to be a huge contract, has yet to be implemented even though it was approved by the Indian cabinet.

Israeli companies are also discussing the sale of drones with the Indian government, including the IAI’s Heron TP, known in Israel as the Eitan, which was shown at a defense show in India this year. Despite the optimism concerning the weapons deals, Israel is not at all certain that Modi’s visit will bring about significant progress in these agreements.